YouthCulture (The mean girl)
YouthCulture (The mean girl)
Theformation of subcultures has become a common phenomenon among theyouths in the contemporary society. Most youths tend to identifythemselves with certain groups that have shared beliefs, values, aswell as norms and interests. Youth culture entails the way teens andyoung people tend to conduct their lives. In youth culture, there arecommon styles, clothes, dating patterns, sports, as well as music andbehaviors. The conduct exhibited by a youth subculture tends todiffer from the behavioral patterns of the rest of society. Thispaper discusses the mean girl as a youth culture. In the paper, “themean girl” will be discussed in a sociological context and relatedto some sociological concepts.
Teensof both genders have over the years strived to become popular andgain worldwide recognition. The quest for popularity has been a majorcontributor to the formation of subcultures that are totally uniquefrom the mainstream culture. As a subculture, “the mean girls”have strived to reinforce the values of the girl-child youth cultureand give young girls recognition and attention from the society. Froma sociological perspective, “mean girls” can be associated withrelational aggression. This entails the behavior of spreading badrumors about other people the group also excludes non-members fromits activities and ignores their ideas and opinions. The involvementof this subculture in relational aggression has not been given a lotof attention by the society since this aggression is not as clearlydepicted like verbal and physical aggression (Oppliger, 2013). In aneffort to seclude others from their activities, there is a tendencyfor girls to use such strategies as exclusion and gossip. This way,they are seen as saints who cannot causes harm to other people whilethey cause psychological and emotional harm by excluding other people(Besag,2006).
Asa youth subculture, mean girls have the tendency to engage inbehaviors that are synonymous with bullying. Based on the mediaportrayal of mean girls, this subculture is depicted as stereotypedas a group that engages in behaviors such as manipulation,backbiting, as well as gossiping. This is a form of aggression thatcan be regarded as inherent to the female gender. The behaviorsshowcased by these girls emanate from the interactions between thegroup members in a context that can be regarded as cultural. Theconstruction of “the mean girl” has a strong relationship to thefeminist ideologies of girl child success, as well as powers thatshould be possessed by the girls belonging to the middle-class socialstatus. With regard to the relational aggression sociologicalperspective, members of the “mean girl” subculture tend to behavein a manner that is inconsistent and unpredictable. This explains whythey cannot have long-lasting friendships with other society memberssince it is not possible to predict how their behavior will changeover time (Gonick,2004).
Thetendency of the group to engage in social intimidation also keeps offother peers who might be willing to form friendships with them.Adolescents belonging to the “mean girl” subgroup employ the useof relational aggression in order to continue being influential anddominant in their subculture. They use gestures, name calling,ridicule, as well as sending messages that hurt others in order toscare their peers. Meanness enables the girls to protect theirpopularity and at the same time gain competitive advantage over theirfellow peers. Through meanness, the girls can ensure that theysanction people who tend to claim that they belong to a high socialstatus while in the real sense they do not belong to such a class(Bell, 2011). Mean girls can also tease others they do this throughidentifying the weaknesses of others and focusing on these weaknessesto harm the victims. Mean girls who are bullies can cause physicalharm to others or even threaten other people with physical action. Inaddition, “mean girls” can be traitors in the sense that they canbetray other people after someone has gained trust in them (Gonick,2004).
Accordingto Oppliger (2013), the dynamics of popularity within the “meangirl” subculture is based on the creation of hierarchies and socialstratification within the subculture. As such, there are some membersof this youth culture who hold a position of authority while othersare expected to follow the ideals of the leaders. In most cases the“Queen Bee” has the powers to instill fear in other girls bycontrolling them. The other girls hold a lower position in theleadership hierarchy, which might be floater, sidekick, banker,wannabee, as well as torn bystander. In order to become a member ofthe “mean girl” subgroup, a certain criteria is followed.
Bell(2011) asserts that one of the criteria is becoming popular wherebyan aspiring member of the subgroup develops a unique sense of styleand fashion in order to be noticed by other people. This entailswearing fashionable dresses, wearing natural makeup, as well as shortskirts and beautiful purses. Moreover, girls who want to join thesubgroup have to be charming, assertive, and charismatic at the sametime as this ensures that they portray behaviors that are common withpopular people. After becoming popular and gaining the confidence ofother people in society, the girls them destroy the friendships whileother people have already become loyal to them and they a good numberof followers. By targeting different people and acting as if they areinnocent, it is rare to discover whether the girls are mean.
Thesocial learning theory can be considered as a significant contributorto the formation of this subculture. Relational aggression is learnedthrough the social media such as movies and television shows. Throughviewing other girls act meanly in the social media, “mean girls”tend to develop behaviors that are mean by mistreating their peers.Although the intention of the media is to portray the mean girlphenomenon, girls can be attracted to such behaviors when they see itbeing rewarded. Cruel behavior of this subgroup can be depicted ashumorous, thus making it appear as normal behavior. For example, inthe movie “Mean Girls”, the behavior of the characters is seen ashumorous, thus making viewers regard the phenomenon as less harmful.Relational aggression in this film is oversimplified and as a result,people may not take it seriously (Oppliger, 2013).
Teenmovies that depict the “mean-girl” phenomenon are based on thenegative stereotypes regarding the friendships among women. Thebullying tactics of “mean girls” tend to be sophisticated andthis explains why they manage to be manipulative to other girls. Thetelevision portrayal of mean girls is quite different from theportrayal of bullies. While bullies can be easily identified whenthey are portrayed in the television, it is not that easy to identifyaggressive behavior of mean girls since it both complex andambiguous. In the United States context, the “mean girl”phenomenon is common among high school girls. The leaders are youngwomen who are confident and can express supremacy and ability tohumiliate others in public without any fear. The worshippers of theleader cannot be intimidated, but rather intimidate others withoutfearing the consequences of their actions. In the “mean girl”subculture, there are standard mean girls who engage in constantfights, which are meant to impress their leader (Gonick,2004).
Theimpact of “mean girl” group on members and society
The“mean girl” subculture has a huge impact on the society, as wellas members of its group. An evaluation of this subculture indicatesthat it contributes significantly to the rise of aggressive behavioramong teenage girls. In addition, the society’s perception of thegirl phenomenon has changed considerably. While in the past girlswere viewed as vulnerable, “the mean girl” stereotype has alteredthis view (Gonick,2004).Girls are increasingly using aggression as a way of exercisingauthority and dominance. This has been precipitated by the assumptionthat individual goals, as well as social purposes can be achievedthrough relational aggression. Member of the “mean girl” subgroupconsider their behavior as vital since it leads to academic success.In addition, the members of the subgroup are more likely to becomecareer women who will succeed in their careers. Since “mean girls”are outgoing and charismatic, they are more likely to get moreopportunities than girls who have non-aggressive behavior (Bell,2011).
Althoughthere are positive effects that accrue to the members of thesubgroup, the victims of the “mean girls” behavior experiencenegative impacts. For instance, victims always experience feelings ofanxiety. As a result of bullying, some teenagers may opt to stay athome rather than go to school. Girls who are at the identifyformation stage are likely to experience low self-esteem, pooracademic performance, disruptions in relationships with their peers,as well as depression. The aggressors (who mostly comprise of “meangirls’) are also at a high risk of becoming delinquent and engagingin risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse. The psychologicaleffects experienced by the victims mostly emanate from the fact thatthey tend to live in denial and rarely report the aggressors. Thebehavior of mean girls is also strongly linked to cyber-bullying. Thegirls tend to subject their victims to bullying through the use ofchat rooms, instant messaging, blogs, personal websites, and onlinejournals that convey messages, which threaten other people (Besag,2006).
Theyouth tend to form a culture that has rules, norms, values, as wellas beliefs that are different from what is exhibited by the rest ofthe society. These subcultures are experienced both in the male andfemale gender. In their quest for popularity, girls form a subgroupthat is commonly referred as “mean girls.” This group engages inbehavior such as bullying, teasing, as well as physical aggressiontowards the victims. Members of the “mean girls” subcultureexpress dominance over other girls and subject their victims tophysical and psychological torture. They report to their leaders whoare known as “Queen Bees.” The behaviors of “mean girls” havea negative impact on the victims since they may contribute todepression.
Besag,V. (2006). Bullying among girls: Friends or foes? SchoolPsychology International27(5), 535-551.
Bell,S. J. (2011). Youngoffenders and youth justice: A century after the fact.Toronto: Nelson Education.
Gonick,M. (2004). The mean girl crisis: Problematizing representations ofgirls’ friendships. FeminismPsychology14(3), 395-400.
Oppliger,P. A. (2013). Bulliesand mean girls in popular culture.Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.